Best Watch Brands Under $500: Our Favourites In 2021
James Elliott16 November 2020 | 10 min read
In 2020, you don’t need to spend thousands of dollars to get yourself a watch that feels like luxury on the wrist. Whilst nothing quite beats the exquisite craftsmanship of a Rolex or a Patek, those on a budget need not miss out!
That extends to the sub-$500 range too, with many well known and well respected brands offering something of quality for everyone across the dress, sport and chronograph markets.
This article is a simple one – we’re going to pick out some of our favourite budget watch brands, alongside showcasing some of their best models. And the best part? You’ll be able to get your hands on every single one of these watches for under $500.
Bargain, right? We’re sure you agree, so let’s get started with our first brand!
We’ll start off with an absolute classic at this price range and that’s Seiko. The Japanese brand are well known for their budget watches, with great models to choose from across sports, dress and diving ranges with the latter something they’re well known for thanks to the many Prospex models.
Seiko also do a good job of staying true to the sub-$500 dollar market thanks to their sister brand, Grand Seiko, covering off more premium pieces. Don’t let that fool you though, Seiko watches combine high quality Japanese craftsmanship across a range of quartz and automatic movements to ensure you’re always wearing a quality piece.
Here’s a few stand out models:
There’s a reason we’ve already mentioned the Prospex range and that’s because they are fantastic watches! Regardless of whether you’re actually heading diving, having one of these on your wrist will ensure you’re always matching functionality with style!
At 45mm it’s a big watch, but by bringing together the classic Pepsi bezel styling, lume markings and a day/date window you have a watch, which at well under $500, is an absolute bargain buy from Seiko.
If you’re looking for something a little more dressy, the Seiko Cocktail Time range offers some of the most sophisticated and high quality pieces you’re likely to get anywhere, let alone for under $500.
Especially with the newest range, which features the sunburst dials, any Cocktail Time will keep you looking sharp! The ‘Sky Diving’ model below for example, comes equipped with a classy leather strap and sports an automatic, 41 hour reserve, movement!
If you’re looking for a sports watch well below $500 which also incorporates some handy chronograph features, something like the SSB301P1 model is well worth a look!
This model in particular matches a quartz movement to seconds, minutes and hour tracking functionality all whilst running behind a classic steel/blue combination. This is a lot of watch for a price that’s not just under $500 but most often found well under $300 – and at that price point, there really aren’t many better!
There’s a good chance you’re new to the Filippo Loretti brand but we’re big fans of the Roman-inspired outfit. Whilst relatively new to the market, they do a great job of offering job beautifully designed sport watches with many many variations available to suit different tastes.
Their site is packed with hundreds of great reviews alongside guides to help you find the best watch in their range to match your personal style. Whilst they have some watches that just top the $500 mark, most of their range sit comfortably within the budget range offering great quality for a bargain price!
Here’s three of our favourites:
Right at the top of the Filippo Loretti pile is the Venice Silver Automatic Mesh watch which combines style and high quality for a smidge under $500. The 42mm piece is built with high quality stainless steel whilst incorporating a sapphire crystal and a mechanical Miyota 9100 movement.
Functionality wise, the dial is loaded with a date window, month wheel, day wheel, day/night indicator and a power reserve meter. Despite the many functions, the dial doesn’t look too busy thanks to the stylish and clean white/silver design.
If you’re looking for something a little more classic, the Rome Silver Automatic is the perfect companion for any dinner party or formal event. Again quality is assured here with a sapphire AR crystal matched with a genuine Italian leather strap and 50m of water resistance.
The Miyota 8215 movement powers a date window, with additional design touches such as an engraved butterfly clasp rounding off the watch nicely. It’s still relatively large at 42mm, but keeps a slim 12mm profile, with the patterned white dial ensuring a great balance between modest style and eye-catching appeal.
And finally, if Sports Watches are more your thing, it’s worth checking out the Odyssey range. This Two Tone Green Link model for 2020 is especially eye catching, matching together the classic green/gold styling we see often in luxury brands!
This watch is packed with functionality, mainly driven by it’s chronograph features for tracking seconds, minutes and hours. It’s also waterproof to 100m, as well as incorporating a rotating bezel meaning it’s also well equipped for any keen divers out there!
If you’re wanting to get your hands on some true Swiss watchmaking for under $500 then Tissot will undoubtedly be your best choice! The brand is often cited as the entryway into Swiss watches given their outstanding quality at budget prices.
Dating all the way back to the mid 1850’s, Tissot also has skin in the game! They know how to make watches that not only last, but keep up with modern trends as they develop. Just be rest assured that whether you invest in a Tissot quartz or automatic piece, you’re getting a quality guarantee from one of watchmaking’s most renowned names.
Here’s some of our favourite Tissot watches:
If you’re looking for something classic and simple the Tissot Mens Gentleman will be the perfect sub-$500 watch for you. The 40mm piece combines a simple and clean white dial, with slender baton hands and a date window – offering everything you need without the clutter!
It’s hardy as well, incorporating a sapphire crystal alongside 100m of water resistance. By incorporating a Swizz quartz movement, the profile of the watch remains low at 8.52mm making it subtle but classy enough for any formal occasion.
If you need a watch that’s more action packed, try looking at the Tissot Men’s Seastar! This watch looks great, combining the stainless steel case and strap with a deep blue face and bezel. All of this is accompanied by sleek silver baton hands and markings, all of which are laced with high powered lume.
The specs more than match the design too! With chronograph features for seconds, minutes and hours, a date window and a rotating bezel this watch is jammed packed. All of that spec points to a classic divers watch and you’re not mistaken with the watch boasting 300m of water resistance and a sapphire crystal!
Lastly, if you’re wanting to get your hands on a really classy, high spec watch, the Tissot Specialities Visodate is our pick for the best Swiss automatic watch you can get sub-$500. It’s a really slick dress watch that combines functionality and style to give the perfect balance for a formal occasion!
The Visodate is a 40mm piece combining stainless steel casing with a leather calfskin strap and a sapphire anti-reflective crystal. Inside the case it excels with the ETA 2836-2 automatic movement powering a date window and offering 38 hours of power reserve!
Just like Seiko, Orient is another Japanese brand that features prominently on any list of best watches under $500. What’s special about Orient though is their quality! The brand is lauded universally for their exceptional quality and craftsmanship given their relatively cheap watch prices.
Whilst best known for their dive watch range, which serve as a solid alternative to the likes of a Rolex Submariner, Orient also have a great range of dress watches which combine the same mix of stellar quality and style.
Let’s look at some of their best sub-$500 models:
Known across different markets as either the Triton or Neptune, this is Orient’s leading budget dive watch which matches great aesthetics with unbelievable functionality and quality. Featuring a high spec automatic movement, 200m of water resistance, 40 hour power reserve meter and a sapphire crystal, it really is a premier dive watch on a budget!
Better still, the watch comes in three style variants, offering both a black and a blue version with an extra special black/gold model too! At 43mm it’s a nice size without being too excessive to justify everyday wear! If you like what you hear, we’d recommend checking out our full review here as well!
The Bambino range offers both versatility and classic dress watch style within the budget range and is one of the watches Orient is most well known for. If you’re looking for something with an added twist, the Open Heart variant offers a day-to-day insight into Orient’s fantastic Japanese engineering!
At 40.5mm and only 12mm thick, the Bambino Open Heart is a slick dress watch perfect for any formal occasion. The watch comes in 6 different styles allowing you to change up the dial colour alongside the choice of steel or rose gold casing.
Lastly, Orient’s Sun and Moon watch is perfect for those that love a beautifully designed, classic watch. As the name suggests, this watch incorporates a day/night indicator alongside tracking for days and date – which at this price point is a lot of functionality!
Reviewers love this watch for it’s fantastic design, complimenting how the patterned dial, day/night indicators and classic roman numeral markings come together to create a thing of real beauty. If you’re looking for something classic, under $500, you’re unlikely to find anything better than this!
We finish off this roundup with a brand that offers something slightly different to the others we’ve seen so far, and that’s Bulova. An American watch brand, now owned and operated by Japanese heavyweight Citizen, Bulova’s range of sub-$500 watches offer something for those with more modern tastes!
The design may be different, but the quality of the design and movement, like all our brands in this roundup, doesn’t change! Bulova don’t just push the boundaries with their modern looks, but also in their technology. In recent years which have made the entire watch community sit up and take note!
Here’s some of their best pieces:
If you want a watch that’s unique to every other watch on the market, the Bulova Curv is the piece for you! It was the world’s first curved watch, with the shape of the case domed to fit the wrist perfectly. This was additionally impressive given the movement inside is also curved, a feat no other watch brand has ever achieved.
Aesthetically, you’ll see Bulova’s modern design style come through with the sharp edges of the watch case matched with hallowed baton hands and chronograph features. The watch is 40.5mm in size and is built on a titanium/steel mix, with a sapphire crystal keeping the whole thing securely protected!
Taking the curvature away, we come to the Bulova Automatic range – a sports watch range that easily matches up to any others we’ve seen in this review so far! 43mm, stainless steel, mineral glass and 100m of water resistance are fairly competitive at this price point, but there’s a big stand out.
The skeleton design gives you a 24/7 view of the fantastic movement found inside this watch. When you combine this with the almost icey blue hand and marking colours you have a watch that catches the eye as a real beauty that’s unique to many other watches at this price point!
As the name suggests, the Bulova Futuro Savvy is a modern men’s watch which combines minimalist stylish with diamond luxury. The all black stainless steel dial and strap give the watch a dark and mysterious feel, with the silver hands and markings contrasting to give a sleek overall look!
What stands out here are the diamond encrusted 3,6 & 9 o’clock markings that bring that additional bit of quality to a watch that could easily match most modern dress styles. For those that love classic watches, this may not be for you but it again proves Bulova are pushing the boundaries and have a watch for every man on the market!
That was our look at some of the best watch brands out there if you’re shopping in the under $500 market.
There’s a great mix of classic names, such as Seiko or Tissot, for those who love tradition, with modern and upcoming brands like Bulova and Filippo Loretti offering something fresh and unique!
Whichever one of the brands you chose from, you’ll be getting a watch which exceeds it’s modest price point. Each one values quality, with many offering features such as automatic movements or a sapphire crystal – the likes of which are often reserved for much pricier budgets!
So, what are you waiting for? It’s time to get shopping for your next premium watch at a sub-$500 price!